John Monks, General Secretary of the TUC, yesterday confirmed fears that up to 600,000 workers could be lost to the movement because of recent legislation affecting union subscriptions.
Members of the TUC's ruling general council also pointed out that government cuts and continuing redundancies in the private sector could add 200,000 to the loss.
Under labour law introduced in August, all 6 million trade unionists who have their dues deducted at source by employers will be called on to confirm the arrangement by next summer. Internal Congress House estimates predict that up to 10 per cent of these will be lost. Mr Monks said that such projections were 'fairly bleak'. The law meant that union officials would have to contact six million people who arranged to have their subscriptions deducted through the check-off system. The contact between union activists and the shop floor could result in more members rather than less.
'It could be a disaster or a triumph,' said Mr Monks, following a general council meeting that approved radical changes to the structure of the TUC. All sub-committees will be abolished, leaving only the 'inner cabinet' finance and general purposes committee, which will be renamed the executive committee.
The general council would also meet five times a year instead of monthly and 'task groups' would be created when necessary.